Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Exploring Etruria

I've been talking a lot about Sicily, but tonight I'm in the mood to pay some attention to another thread of my lineage, my Grandmother's side; That part of my family lived in what was once the southernmost part of Etruria, Naples. The name of the city is interesting. It's from the Greek, Neapoli, meaning New City. The Greeks founded the colony after the Etruscans were too weak to hold it any longer. Modern natives of the city still call themselves by the prehellenic name, Parthenopians, for the city of Parthenope. Wha? Parthenope was one of the Sirens from The Odyssey. She was so distraught that she was unable to entice Odysseus that she threw herself into the sea and her body washed up on the shore of the city, which took her name. There's even a bust of the siren, Parthenope in Naples.
I've always just plain known Greek lore. Later, when I was exposed to it, I felt the same way about the Etruscans. Maybe this is why I'm such a Shakespeare buff: He wrote about Greece and Rome, after all, and Etruscans too. I recall a trip with hubby to Penn's museum to view an Etruscan art collection many years ago. I found myself staring at one of the mosaics of a woman, riveted by the familiar pattern of her hair: It looked exactly like mine when I have it loosely pulled back. My fellow curly-girls will understand. When brushed back gently and held in place, my hair looks like waves on the ocean. It was a moment when I truly felt connected to my ancestors in more than theory, or as an amorphous energy I could tap into. Seeing the small things like jewelry, coins, mirrors, household objects, that mosaic... It felt like when we cleared out my Aunt's home after she died: Small snapshots of a person's life which help you to better understand who they were. A real person who led a life not that much unlike my own. This whole post might sound silly, and I am pretty tired tonight (almost posted some Aeneid quotes :P), so maybe I'm not quite able to express the awe and wonder I felt that day to truly Know and internalize something I'd always kinda got in theory. Anyway, on to the practical:

My Grandmother knew how to read the animals. This went far beyond the groundhog seeing its shadow. She could tell the weather by what our cat would do. The next day's temperature was predicted from the color of the sunset. Birds of different types and different singing styles noted at different times of day could yield all sorts if information, as did the appearance of spiders, whom everyone was forbidden to kill -this is also a rule in my house too. I've done a bit of reading on Native American animal lore and it's very different, not just because there are different animals involved, but the whole philosophy. There wasn't really any identifying with a particular animal, they just provide the information. My Grandmother was an Augur, she just didn't know the word for it.

So why don't you kill spiders? In short, they're an omen of prosperity. Killing one will bring rain, both literal as well as wet stuff on your head. Speaking of Spiders, I will be posting about the Tarantella in February.  So what's the post-to-do-list count up to now? I have about 20 listed, I think. Let's set a February angenda: Februus, Parentalia, Whip my Roman Sex Gods/Lupercalia, Black Madonna, Tarantella, Hexing as a necessary art, cleansing spells , Diana as a local Deity syncretized by Rome, Carthage/Dido. There. A plan with plenty of room to just go with what's on my mind at the moment or share something inspired by the day's reading. I'll also take questions if anybody posts one.

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